US doubles down on Huawei fears as Chinese prepare to sue

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has reinforced his attacks on Huawei as the firm apparently prepares to sue the US government over its federal-level ban

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has renewed his attacks on China’s Huawei, saying the networking supplier openly threatens the US, as the business allegedly prepares to take the US government to court on the basis that its ban on the use of Huawei equipment by federal government agencies is unconstitutional.

During a Q&A session with students at the Future Farmers of America – a youth organisation that encourages people to explore careers in agriculture – Pompeo accused Huawei of stealing intellectual property developed in the US and said there was a risk that the company would use it to “invade your privacy”.

“Huawei also presents a more traditional national security threat,” said Pompeo. “It’s very different from in America. If you’re working with AT&T or a US telecom provider, a Microsoft or an IBM who’s providing IT services or products, it’s a private company doing its own thing, trying to make money, trying to grow its business.

“Huawei is owned by the state of China and has deep connections to their intelligence service. That should send off flares for everybody who understands what the Chinese military and Chinese intelligence services do. We have to take that threat seriously.”

Pompeo said he has been lobbying governments around the world to evaluate their ties to Huawei and reconsider the risks of including its technology within government systems or critical national network infrastructure.

“There is a real risk, though, that the Chinese will use this for purposes that aren’t commercial, that aren’t for private gain, but rather for the state’s benefit,” he said. “And it’s a risk I think these countries ought to very, very carefully consider before they move forward.”

PPompeo was speaking as unconfirmed reports emerged in the US media that Huawei is preparing to sue the US government over its ban on federal bodies using Huawei equipment – a ban that has also effectively stopped US communications services providers such as AT&T and Verizon from using Huawei.

According to the New York Times, the lawsuit will challenge part of a defence spending law that came into effect in 2018, which bans executive agencies from using Huawei and its competitor, ZTE.

Citing sources from within Huawei who had requested anonymity, the paper alleged that Huawei will claim that the ban is an act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without trial – also known as a bill of attainder – which is expressly forbidden under Article 1, Section 9 of the US constitution.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has also filed a lawsuit in Canada, where she remains pending an extradition hearing, alleging that the Canadian authorities detained her and interrogated her without informing her of her legal rights, and conducted an illegal search of her computers and luggage.

Cybersecurity Transparency Centre

Meanwhile, Huawei’s deputy chairman, Ken Hu, today opened the firm’s new Cybersecurity Transparency Centre in Brussels, through which it aims to offer European government agencies, technical experts, industry bodies and standards organisations a platform to communicate and collaborate to “balance out security and development in the digital era”.

Besides showcasing Huawei’s own cyber security practices, it will be a venue for the firm to engage with stakeholders on security strategy and privacy protection, and offer a product security testing and verification platform for Huawei customers to come and use.

“At Huawei, we have the ABC principle for security – Assume nothing. Believe nobody. Check everything,” said Hu.

“Both trust and distrust should be based on facts, not feelings, not speculation, and not baseless rumour. We believe that facts must be verifiable, and verification must be based on standards.

“So, to start, we need to work together on unified standards. Based on a common set of standards, technical verification and legal verification can lay the foundation for building trust.

“This must be a collaborative effort, because no single vendor, government or telco operator can do it alone.”

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